The Yosemite Valley Visitor Center has a new exhibit hall, where you can learn how Yosemite’s spectacular landscape was formed, how people have interacted with it through the centuries, how wildlife adapts and survives, and how your national park continues to evolve. A free 23-minute film provides a stunning overview of Yosemite’s splendor.
The Yosemite Museum, next to the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, has displays that interpret the cultural history of Yosemite’s native Miwok and Paiute people from 1850 to the present. Demonstrations of basket-weaving, bead-work, and traditional games are presented. The reconstructed Indian Village of Ahwahnee behind the museum is always open. The art gallery is open periodically and often exhibits pieces from the Yosemite Museum collection.
The Nature Center at Happy Isles is a family-oriented nature center that features natural history exhibits (with an emphasis on wildlife) and interactive displays. Nearby are short trails focusing on the area’s four different environments: forest, river, talus, and fen. You can also see substantial evidence of the huge 1996 rock fall from the Glacier Point cliff far above the nature center. The nature center is a short walk from the Happy Isles shuttle bus stop, and is open May through September.
The LeConte Memorial Lodge, Yosemite’s first public visitor center and a National Historic Landmark, is operated by the Sierra Club from May through September and features a children’s corner, library, and a variety of environmental education and evening programs.
The Ahwahnee, a famous hotel and National Historic Landmark, is popular even for those not staying there. Completed in 1927, it was built in a rustic style with American Indian motif. Historic paintings of Yosemite, stunning stained-glass windows, and woven tapestries grace the walls. The Great Lounge and Dining Room are architectural examples of rustic elegance.
The Pioneer Yosemite History Center has horse-drawn wagons, a covered bridge, and historic buildings out of Yosemite’s past. The history center explains how Yosemite was the inspiration for national parks across America and throughout the world.
The Mariposa Grove Museum, a replica of Galen Clark’s cabin, offers giant sequoia displays, books, maps, and information. The museum is accessible only by foot or by going on the one-hour tram tour of the Grove. (Open May through September.)
There is more information about Yosemite here.